Water conservation increases statewide, Bay Area saves more than Southern California

After months of failing to conserve water, Californians are finally starting to make significant progress as the state’s three-year drought worsens, the summer heats up, and local agencies are stepping up rules and penalties for wasting water.

New numbers released on Tuesday showed that statewide California urban residents reduced their water use by 7.6% in June compared to June 2020, the base year.

It is still below the 15% target set by Governor Gavin Newsom last July. But that’s a big jump from May’s 3.1% savings compared to May 2020. And it’s a major change from March and April, when residents turned on their lawn sprinklers during an unusually dry spring, effectively increasing the statewide water use of 18.7% and 17.8% compared to those months two years ago.

“The numbers are an improvement to say the least,” said Joaquin Esquivel, chairman of the State Council for Water Control, which released the monthly data Tuesday. “We saw an increase in usage in March and April and here in June we are starting to see a real response.”

California's urban water use decreased 7.6% in June 2022 compared to June 2020, according to new data from the State Water Resources Control Board released on August 2, 2022. (Source: SWRCB)
California’s urban water use decreased 7.6% in June 2022 compared to June 2020, according to new data from the State Water Resources Control Board released on August 2, 2022. (Source: SWRCB)

Northern California continued to move closer to Newsom’s target, with the Bay Area saving 12.6% in June compared to June 2020 – the largest savings of any region in California – while the South Coast area , which includes the counties of Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego, reduced by 5.9%.

In the Bay Area, the Marin Municipal Utility District reduced its water use by 25.3% while San Jose Water Company users reduced their own by 17.5%, followed by the Santa Clara Valley Water District (15%). , Alameda County Water District (13.2%), the East Bay Municipal Utility District (12.2%), the Contra Costa Water District (11.2%) and the San Francisco PUC (5.7%).

Local water agencies said on Tuesday that the water saved will now help if the drought drags into the fourth year.

“Our residents and businesses are aware of their water use, are repairing leaks and exchanging their lawns for drought tolerant gardens,” said Doug Linney, chairman of the East Bay Municipal Utility board. District, which supplies water to 1.5 million people in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. “These actions lead to long-term savings, which prepare us in case the next year is dry, and help us respond to a climate that is changing before our eyes.”

On May 23, Newsom told leaders of the state’s largest water agencies that the delay in conservation was a “black eye” as the state struggled with shrinking reservoirs and disappearing groundwater.

At the time, he said his office would be monitoring the situation over the next 60 days and told agencies to step up awareness and education efforts to communicate the urgency of the crisis to the public. A few weeks later, the state water authority required most cities and water districts to limit outdoor irrigation to two days a week and ban the irrigation of “non-functional grass lawns” or grass in office parks and industrial sites, but not in schools. parks or golf courses.

Esquivel said these measures underlie some of the improved retention numbers now.

Newsom met again on Friday with leaders from local water agencies across the state. Since its request for voluntary savings of 15% a year ago, the state has accumulated a long way to go, having reduced urban water use over the past year by just 2.7%.

So far, Newsom hasn’t told the water board to move to mandatory statewide targets with fines for agencies that fall short, as Governor Jerry Brown did in 2015 during the state’s latest drought. But he continues to meet local water leaders and is watching closely, Esquivel said.

“It’s keeping all those options open,” Esquivel said. “The options are on the table. We are moving in the right direction “.

Many water agencies oppose mandatory state targets. Some say they have ample local supplies, having made major investments in new reservoirs, groundwater projects or, in the case of San Diego, which used 4.1% more water this June than in 2020, building a plant. of desalination.

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